A Call for Prototypes that Explore the Possibilities the Electronic Medium Offers

In our 1996 CCCC presentation, "Shifting Capital: Electronic Publishing on Bourdieu's Linguistic Market," J. Quaintance and I discussed our analysis of a journal available exclusively in traditional paper form (College Composition and Communication [CCC]), one available exclusively on line (Postmodern Culture [PMC]), and one we saw as an emerging category blurring the boundaries between the two (The PreText Conversation: REINVW). An important -- and, to us, a very surprising -- discovery we made in our analysis is that despite the temporalization of space that occurs in hypertextual reading, online journals such as PMC are determined by many of the constraints of traditional paper publishing. Most of the articles are still single-authored and prominently display the name of that author, and although they're linked to other documents, for all intents and purposes they're autonomous in their structure and linear in their argument. Additionally, these articles carry copyright notices, discuss topics of interest to academic readers, and publish only those reader "Comments" selected (and possibly edited) by the journal's editors. Finally, the relatively formal tone of PMC articles -- a tone established through the use of professional/disciplinary vocabulary, sophisticated sentence structure, and lengthy paragraphs/dense text -- mirrors that of the global academic market, in the same way that academic journals such as CCC (and much, I'll admit, of my writings here) do.

In "Prototypes: New Forums for Scholarship in 'The Late Age of Print'," Todd Taylor and David Erben agree that some electronic journals merely replicate print journals and don't explore the possibilities that the electronic medium offers:

[T]he medium of the printed word on page maintains and supports a particular system of values. Preeminent among this system are the romanticization of individual expression in the form of the monograph; the institutionalization of intellectual capital in the form of the copyright; and the modernist obsession with unity, symmetry, order, and closure. For the most part, online versions of print journals struggle to retain these values, and hypertextual versions of most scholarly documents maintain a print-based conception of publishing as they tend to be marketed like copyrighted monographs. We should classify such work, even though available electronically, as throwbacks to the age of print. However, prototypes are already available that indicate something different -- prototypes that define the "late age of print." (107)

An example of what they call "prototypes" of new scholarship is the MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or Domain). (For a discussion of MUDs, see Pseudo-MOOing: A CandC Dialogue.)

My point here is this: If we do want to explore the possibilities that the electronic medium offers (and I think we do), then we need to consider not only working with already established "prototypes" -- forums such as MUDs (as Taylor and Erben suggest) and The PreText Conversations: REINVW and Kairos' CoverWeb (as I suggest) -- but also developing new ones.

Opening | Prototypes Exploring Possibilities | Prototypes Illustrating Writing Process |
Prototypes Illustrating Social Construction | Prototypes Illustrating Praxis | Conclusion (?) | Works Cited


Last updated: February 1997